The Kentucky Headhunters - Southern Rock Royalty

Nashville’s music scene has it all from up and comers to music legends. With nearly 50 years of success music legends The Kentucky Headhunters, known as “Southern Rock Royalty,” released their 12th Studio album On Safari November 4th.  


On Safari came on the heels of a life-changing event for The Kentucky Headhunters when band members Richard and Fred Young lost their father three days before heading into the studio to record On Safari.   They have dedicated On Safari to the memory of their father and rhythm guitar player and vocalist Richard Young said, “With dad passing, we poured our heart into the record and we think it shows. It was very emotional and we opened up a lot more while recording this album.” 


With a GRAMMY® Award, two Top 10 charting albums, four consecutive Top 40 hits and many other honors, The Kentucky Headhunters created a unique blend of honky-tonk, blues, and southern rock that appeals to listeners of all kinds of music. The Kentucky Headhunters, from Edmonton, Kentucky, got their start in 1968.  Known as Itchy Brother at the time and included brothers Fred and Richard Young and cousins Greg Martin and Anthony Kenney.  After Kenney departed and Doug Phelps joined the band, The Kentucky Headhunters were born in 1986. Touted by Billboard as a “great American rock ‘n’ roll band,” the band still continues to tour throughout the United States and has enjoyed playing in Nashville throughout the years at Bridgestone Arena, Ascend Amphitheater, and also played at the George Jones tribute.


The Kentucky Headhunters had an opportunity to travel overseas and play in Europe for the first time this past June when Richard Young’s son, John Fred, and his bandmates of Black Stone Cherry made it happen. When John Fred asked his dad if he wanted to open for Queen at the Sweden Rock Festival, the answer was of course YES!  As one of the most important rock and metal festivals in Europe and following in the footsteps of  bands like Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Guns ‘N’ Roses or Def Leppard, it was a place many of the Headhunters’ influences called home and a push taking them out of their comfort zone.  Richard said, “I hadn’t flown for more than 34 years and I don’t think I slept for 3 months thinking about it, but I knew my brother Fred would go so I had to go too.”  The band came back totally reenergized from the European trip and during their journey, when time permitted, they did sightseeing and visited magnificent castles, old churches and cemeteries dating back to the 14th century. “We all felt so connected, our family roots are Scottish, and the Beatles in 1964 were a big influence for us.  It was so amazing to see the beautiful countryside and landscape while we toured,” Doug remarked about the trip.


Richard and Fred have fond memories of visiting Nashville as young boys with their father.  Their dad collected architectural items from antebellum mansions such as doors, windows, or columns. In fact, Richard said he has the stained glass double doors from the old Baptist Church on Broadway in his house in Kentucky. Greg recalled a favorite stop during his visits to Nashville in the late ‘70s was Lawrence Brother’s Records on Broadway.  “You never knew what you might find in the stacks of old records;  Ernest Tubbs, Delmore Brothers or a treasured Beatles album,” he said. “Tower Records on West End was another favorite stop until it closed in 2006.”


Over the years, the band has made the rounds to many of the restaurants in the Nashville area. Cock Of the Walk on Music Valley Drive and Hog Heaven near Centennial Park have maintained their longevity like the Headhunter and still remain favorite spots of the bands.  The Family Wash on Main Street also made the list, as it has very special ties to the band and is a great place to hang out and listen to live music nightly.


Follow The Kentucky Headhunters on twitter @KyHeads and download On Safari on iTunes or Amazon today. For more information on The Kentucky Headhunters, visit


Photo by Joe McNally

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08 Nov 2016

By Kathy Fox